I’m digging through old Usenet archives today, to see whether I can connect that early net publishing to blogs today, and honestly, we’ve been discussing the same stuff for twenty years. At 1985-02-22 08:57:16 PST a woman answered a question as to whether one can fall in love online thus:
I never fell for anybody I met over Usenet, but I have fallen for at least 3 people over Arpa. One did not work out, one we will see
about, and one is in negotiation.
Interesting that ARPANET gave better hunting than Usenet, don’t you think? And I wonder how the negotiation ended up. I’m thinking of comparing Usenet in the eighties to blogs today, tracing a line of inheritance, so the rest of this post will be links and ideas, mostly so I can keep track of this myself. I’ll add to this post as I go.
Books I’ll want to look at:
- Michael and Ronda Hauben: Netizens : On the History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet, 1997. (Amazon)
- Espen Munch’s hovedoppgave Kaos og orden pÂ Usenet : en antropologisk analyse av elektronisk gruppekommunikasjon, Oslo 1997.
- Jan Fredrik Hovden’s hovedoppgave Elektroniske oppslagstavler (BBS) i Noreg : eit fors¯k pÂ Â konstruere eit felt for personleg datakommunikasjon ved hjelp av Pierre Bourdieu sin praksisteori (a Bourdieuean analysis of BBSes in Norway), Bergen 1997.
- John S. Quarterman: The matrix : computer networks and conferencing systems worldw, 1990.
- PÂl Spilling: Fra ARPANET til internett : en utvikling sett med norske ¯yne (Norwegian perspective on development), 1995
- alt.culture.usenet FAQ, last updated 1995 (!)
- Hardy’s History of the Net, an MA thesis, 1993. Lots of references.
- History of the software of Usenet.
- Odd de Presno on good places to surf in Norway in 1989, using datapak to connect to American sites (places? servers? BBSes?) like CompuServe or Bitnet, or a 2400 baud modem to dialup Norwegian BBSes.
- Liz Lawley’s paper on Usenet and Bourdieu, 1994.
- “According to the New Hacker’s Dictionary, Usenet was “originally
implemented in 1979-1980 by Steve Bellovin, Jim Ellis, Tom Truscott,
and Steve Daniel at Duke University”. Usenet news was initially
transmitted via UUCP to a few sites and so little was transmitted
that you could easily read all the articles posted in one day.” (from alt.culture.usenet FAQ)
- Until 1986/87 there were only two top levels, mod and net. With “The Great Renaming” the seven main hierarchies we still know today appeard: comp,misc,news,rec,sci,soc,talk. In addition there are lots of local hierarchies, such as no. for Norway, and ones that are for particular institutions and aren’t distributed everywhere. (source: Hardy’s History, he quotes Woodbury, G. Wolffe. (1992). Re: Famous flame wars, examples please? Usenet newsgroups: alt.folklore.computers, alt.culture.usenet, news.admin.misc, Nov. 30.)
- Themes: Perhaps a women’s usenet group like net.women.only might be usefully compared to Blogsisters and networks and webrings of blogging women, since the topic matter and purpose would presumably be similar, but I’m not sure.
- Norwegian: A possibly more practical alternative would be to look at Norwegian Usenet groups and BBSes, but the archives of the BBS I was on in the eighties are lost, the sysop says. There are others, of course.
- I could compare the style, the kinds of self-representation, the persistency, the community and social network, I could think about how direct the line of descent is….
- I’d like a fairly small case study, so a discussion about a single topic (or group of topics) in a single forum, perhaps with crossposts to another forum (which is rather like intersecting blog clusters)
Bloggish things about usenet:
- The timestamp – fixes words in time, highlights both persistence (I can still read what a woman wrote at exactly 1985-02-22 08:57:16 PST) and evanescence (it’s gone, she may be dead, have changed her name, almost certainly her email address, she may live elsewhere, her opinions will have changed) This was the first time the timestamp became this precise, though it has been present in letters, always (?), and in letters it came with a place of writing, too. The woman writing in 1985 may have been writing on the Pacific coast of the USA, as her timezone indicates, but perhaps that was simply the timezone of the server to which she posted her words.
- Boigy’s Law: The theory that there are certain topics in every newsgroup that are discussed cyclicly, such as every month. Often, the period of the cycle, and the length of the resulting discussion, can be accurately estimated by those who have been around long enough (alt.culture.usenet FAQ) [Mind you, this is probably the case in every community]
Books about letter-writing in years of yore that might yield something about timestamps
- Patricia A. Rosenmeyer: Ancient epistolary fictions : the letter in Greek literature, 2001.
- William Mills Todd III: The familiar letter as a literary genre in the age of Pushkin, 1999.
- James Daybell, ed: Early modern women’s letter writing, 1450-1700, 2001. (this looks promising, I imagine a lot of examples? It’s quite early, and womens’ letters could be easily compared to Usenet posts and blogging.)
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